Six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Darcy is throwing the annual Lady Anne Ball and everything is going smoothly. But, as close friends and family are celebrating the night before, her sister Lydia unexpectedly bursts into Pemberley screaming that her husband Wickham is dead. So begins the latest work of crime fiction by master writer P.D. James.
Turns out, Wickham isn’t dead; but he is found holding the bloody corpse of his friend Captain Denny in the middle of the woods. Darcy himself is quickly involved and stays involved throughout the investigation and trial of Wickham. The novel gives a very interesting look into the British legal system of the time. And James gives some very Dickensian twists to our favorite Austenite characters.
Many secrets abound in this tale, but James juggles them easily while also seamlessly introducing us to some of the other new characters that didn’t exist in Pride & Prejudice. (Austen fans will also enjoy the few moments when characters from other Austen books are fleetingly referred to.)
Although some parts of the book seem to drag, know that everything will be resolved in Elizabethan fashion—in other words, 3-page-long monologues delivered in the final chapters will reveal all. And if, in your course of guessing whodunit, you begin to suspect lycanthropic involvement (Full moons! Mysteriously ill people!), then you have merely read too many supernatural books. Don’t worry; this isn’t Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (although that book is also really good, just in a different way).
Death Comes to Peberley is great way to revisit old friends and see what they’ve done with their lives. James creates believable futures for Austen’s characters while also reexamining their choices made in P&P. Just be warned, Austen fans, that after reading this book you will want to revisit Austen’s classics.
Posted by xoxojk on May 31, 2012
So many critics have derided One for the Money, but I’m here to defend it. I’ll admit that I was apprehensive about this film. I’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and I was worried they would ruin the franchise (plus I was really holding out for them to adapt to a TV series—wouldn’t it make a great TV show?). However, the film was very enjoyable and very true to the book.
Casting was probably the biggest issue for the film. Katherine Heigl does a great job with Stephanie; she grows into the character the same way Stephanie grows into being a bounty hunter. The problem is that everyone’s preconceived notions of dislike for Heigl biased them against enjoying anything about her and the film. But if you look past the terrible Jersey accent (it really doesn’t suit her), then you can see that Heigl does her best.
Daniel Sunjata was my other concern as regards casting. Although he isn’t as dark and mysterious as I imagined Ranger in the books, Sunjata is still charming and devastatingly handsome enough to pull off this seasoned bounty hunter. Plus, his chemistry with Heigl was fairly palpable.
Speaking of chemistry, Jason O’Mara did a great job making Morelli both smarmy and lovable (and sexy as well!). I was definitely hoping for some steamy action between him and Stephanie. Sherri Shepherd was perfectly cast as Lula, the hooker-cum-secretary; and she cracked me up as much as she does in the books. Also, I would have liked to see more of Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur—that character is always good for a hoot and a half.
The plot was the same as the book, but it isn’t really the “plot” that drives these stories. It’s seeing everyday girl Stephanie Plum kick ass—or attempt to—as she gets into these ridiculous situations (again, a TV series would be perfect for this!). So, if you want a fun, entertaining film, then One for the Money is the one for you. And if you need some summer reading material, then Stephanie Plum series is always the perfect beachside accessory.
- Loving Ms Plum (onbecomingwellread.wordpress.com)
- One for the money. (shernor2.wordpress.com)
Posted by xoxojk on May 30, 2012
This book, edited by Sarah Moon and produced by The Trevor Project, focuses on the “It Gets Better” campaign. A slew of queer writers pen notes to their younger selves to inform that everything is gonna be OK (more or less). This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to read in high school when I was questioning so many things in my life (and it seems like these writers could have used this book as well).
The letters in the book are inspiring and uplifting. It’s a hopeful book, and one that every teenager questioning their sexuality should read. It is also an important book for any adult to read as well. Any and every queer person can relate to so many different things in this book.
Most of the letters are just variations of the same message, but each writer is unique and in their different styles you can find new things that resonate with you as a reader. Some of the writers are illustrators as well, and they drew their letter in comic book style. Here are some quotations that I found inspirational in this book:
- “There is an elusive border dividing the great nation of Self-Respect from the third world country called Wallowing.” –Nick Burd
- “You will discover that all gay men are not stylish, witty, promiscuous, and viciously entertaining. No one said that equality was going to be fun.” –Paul Rudnick
- “Your best friend since fourth grade is gay. Just so you know.” –Rakesh Satyal (this happened to me too!)
- “It will take some time, but you will fall truly, madly, deeply, and finally in love.” –James Lecesne
There are many other gems in this book, and I dare you to read this book and NOT get something out of it.
Posted by xoxojk on May 29, 2012
The gay indie film eCupid puts a twist on Internet dating. When Marshall feels like his life—and 7-year relationship with Gabe—is growing stagnant, he impulse signs up for the new dating app eCupid; but he gets more than he bargained for (or does he get exactly what he asked for?). The app installs itself in his phone and begins to manipulate his life.
The acting in this film wasn’t as cringe inducing as most gay indie films I’ve seen—although the purposefully awkward flirting certainly was. However, the emotionality of the film felt very static. Only one time did Houston Rhines (Marshall) raise his voice. For a story about a couple struggling to stay together, you would think there would be more yelling and pleading instead the subdued cordiality that they exhibit. The quirky cast of supporting characters whom Marshall meets on his journey served their purpose well enough, and we can tell what the lesson he is learning will turn out to be within the first thirty minutes.
Overall, the film is flirty and fun and entertaining. It does some imaginative storytelling that helps it stand out from the other more predictable films in this genre. Also, it boasts zero sex scenes—gratuitous sex being the main appeal (and sometimes downfall) of lesser films in this genre. But don’t worry, there are enough shirtless hotties to keep you visually entertained.
Posted by xoxojk on May 28, 2012
We are warned in the first chapter that it’s the beginning of the end. This is true of the alligator-wrestling amusement park that is Swamplandia! (the exclamation point tacked on is an endearing affectation). It’s also true of the matriarch of the Bigtree family (they run Swamplandia!), who has recently died, leaving her family devastated. The patriarch—referred to as the Chief—goes to the mainland on business; Kiwi (the male protagonist) runs away to the mainland to earn money for the dwindling tourist attraction by working at the amusement park that put them out of business; Osceola begins talking to (and falling in love with) ghosts; Ava (our female protagonist) is left trying to keep everything else working, while also raising a red alligator.
The real action in this novel begins when Ossie runs off with her ghost boyfriend, leaving Ava a note saying they’re getting married. Ava enlists the help of a mysterious Bird Man who has appeared on her island (supposedly to scare away some of the peskier birds). Her adventure into the swamps in search of her wayward sister will leave her forever changed.
While this description of the novel may sound intriguing, I can tell you that it felt very tiresome to read. Author Karen Russell has a crisp vocabulary and is great at delivering vivid descriptions (hence why the novel has been so lauded). Although she creates a very imaginative world of alligators and swampland and a morbid amusement park, the story slowly meanders to its eventually exciting climax. Russell has talent oozing out of her pores, but she didn’t engage me as a reader in this attempt.
(If this is what the other short-listed Pulitzer Prize nominees are like, it’s no wonder that no one was awarded it last year.)
Posted by xoxojk on May 28, 2012
The third (and final) book of The Kane Chronicles deals with Carter and Sadie’s attempts to stop Apophis from destroying the entire world with Chaos. This book definitely improves on the first two in that it feels like the characters have really matured (and it wasn’t as painful to read). Rick Riordan definitely did a superb job in wrapping up this series and giving a very satisfying climax to this story.
Like in all of Riordan’s books, Carter and Sadie have only a couple days to run around the globe (and through the Duat) to save the world from eminent destruction. This time their quest involves finding the shadow of Apophis, which they will use to execrate him.
In the downtime of their adventures, Carter and Sadie also have to deal with relationship dramas. Carter and Zia finally get to hang out (she’s been busy over in Egypt taking care of the senile god Ra). They also get tasked with watching the notorious criminal of Egypt—Setne (who is by far the best thing about the book). Riordan created a very compelling villain in Setne and I would love to see him get his only stand alone book or something.
Sadie has her own dramas in her love triangle with dying Walt and god of the dead Anubis. The gods forbid Sadie to see Anubis any more because they are too close to getting hot and heavy (god-human relationships are more forbidden in Egyptian mythology than Greco-Roman mythologies). Walt has also been attempting to keep Sadie distanced from him since his inevitable end is only hours away. Sadie is frustrated by both of them (even more so when she learns that they’ve been planning something together and haven’t told her).
There are the usual twists and turns and character-defining moments, and Riordan manages to make them feel fresh. Although he officially closes the story, he does leave some open-endedness in the story for more stories. Personally, I would like to see Riordan do a stand-alone story that doesn’t revolve around the entire world’s destruction. He also hints at other kinds of gods in the world (a clear reference to his other books that deal with the Greco-Roman gods); I would really enjoy seeing some form of crossover adventure with the Percy Jackson et al and the Kane siblings (but only after he’s finished the Heroes of Olympus opus).
Posted by xoxojk on May 25, 2012
The second book in Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles feels like a rote regurgitation of the writing formula he developed in the Percy Jackson books. It begins with an extended action sequence. The protagonists Carter and Sadie have already learned of their quest for the book (something that usually takes 50-100 pages in the other series). The reader is immediately thrown into their mission to steal a scroll from the Book of Ra (which they need to summon him from retirement so he can defeat the lord of Chaos Apophis).
It has been a year since I read the first book, and I found myself nearly lost when I jumped into this book. I was slow in remembering the Kane siblings, and I was even slower in remembering the rules of their magic and the names of their Egyptian gods (it doesn’t help that I recently read his Roman god series). After the first mission is complete they gather back at their headquarters in Brooklyn House with an injured teammate who was just introduced and I thus have no feelings about whatsoever. The other character forced into the beginning of the book was Walt (a love interest for Sadie who is also hiding something from her).
From then on, the clock is ticking. With only four days (a common Riordan time constraint) to awaken Ra and save the entire world from destruction (the stakes of the quest are referred to all too frequently in this book), Carter and Sadie must rely on new characters to help them reach their goal.
The Kane Chronicles have a more juvenile feel than the Percy Jackson books, which for a young adult book series is not unwanted; yet it does distance older readers from the text. I think because Carter and Sadie are squabbling siblings, it gives the books that juvenile vibe; but as an adult reading the book I found it off-putting. Overall, this book is definitely designed for adolescents, and they would certainly enjoy the action and comedic style of the book. But this series definitely loses the broader audience appeal that many find in the Percy Jackson books.
Posted by xoxojk on May 24, 2012
Max has returned the Cedars, a seaside cottage, as he attempts to exorcise the ghosts of those he loved. His exorcism occurs as he remembers pivotal events from his past that involves those he loved dying. That’s it; that’s the whole kit and caboodle.
Aside from some interesting revelations that occur in literally the last 10 pages, the novel is a bit of snoozer—and a confusing one at that. Max’s memories jump to three different points in time at his own whim, leaving the reader to figure out where in time in time they’re reading (think of those left on the Island in LOST after Ben displaces the Island with a turn of that donkey wheel—only less interesting than that). The windy structure of the novel made it difficult to really invest in any character, thus reading the novel became more of a chore than a pleasure (hence why it took me a full week to read this short book).
John Banville’s writing style is itself great; and a more linear story (or at least a story with a character I can sympathize with) would probably make for a fascinating read. As far as The Sea is concerned, however, don’t bother reading it—unless you want to read a journalistic trip down memory lane.
Posted by xoxojk on May 21, 2012
Malik Solanka is suffering from a deep-seeded fury. In a blackout rage he nearly slices up his wife with a knife in the middle of the night. Thinking a change of pace might cure him, Solanka moves to NYC (which is basically the least peaceful place on earth). His fury only grows, but the problem is that he is never conscious when he unleashes this inner rage. Thus, he begins to suspect himself of being the serial killer who has been killing women by smashing their heads with pieces of concrete.
Salman Rushdie’s psychological examination of Solanka is superb. He crafts a beautiful novel with intrigue and emotionality—and even an obsession with dolls. Rushdie seamlessly inserts literary allusions (Voltaire! Swift!) in his storytelling and his smart prose writing instantly elevates the IQ of anyone reading. In Fury, he crafted a compelling story with enough crazy characters to create unexpected surprises along the way. You never know where the story will lead.
I could come up with a multitude of praises for this novel, but it would be better if you just read it yourself. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out the rest of his novels; I’m always excited when I find a writer that can surprise and excite me.
Posted by xoxojk on May 15, 2012
This classic work of LGBT literature certainly lived up to the hype. James Baldwin’s fascinating characters still feel relevant today. The story, set in 1950s Paris, follows a bisexual man who is torn between choosing a conventional life with “mistress” friend Hella or following his deep desire for Giovanni.
Unlike John Irving’s bisexual Billy (in his new novel In One Person—which frequently references Giovanni’s Room), Baldwin’s David is not a character to be looked up to. His reprehensible treatment of Giovanni, which was just a manifestation of his contempt for his homosexual feelings, made him deeply unlikable (even his treatment of Joe in the beginning of the novel was an extreme turnoff to the character). Yet in this tragic tale, the likeability of the narrator did not affect my enjoyment of the novel itself.
Baldwin is superb as a storyteller, carefully plotting the ruin of his characters. The titular room, which begins as the place where David must live when he becomes to poor to pay rent on his current place, inevitably becomes a metaphor for David’s feelings. Although this novel does nothing to glorify the homosexual lifestyle, it does much to show the intolerance that permeated the world at the time (even Hella notes how difficult it is to be a woman), making this an important piece of literature for everyone.
Posted by xoxojk on May 14, 2012